Ancient Echoes - Music from the time of Jesus and Jerusalem's Second Temple
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Audio CD, November 5, 2002
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The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (SAVAE) invites people from different faiths to celebrate their various religious roots with the gift of song. The Ancient Echoes CD features recreations of music from the time of Jesus and Jerusalem's Second Temple, which makes it the perfect gift for people of all denominations. Composed after years of intense study, Ancient Echoes draws from Jewish and Christian sources and Islamic influences to create a collection of spiritual and emotive choral and instrumental pieces.
SAVAE takes a landmark step toward recreating ancient music of the Holy Land - including original prayers of Jesus, sung in his native Aramaic language, sacred Levitical music from Jerusalem's Second Temple, and Essene chant from the Dead Sea Scrolls. A vibrant culture that was enriched by contact with distant lands connected along caravan routes is recaptured here, as SAVAE's voices ring out above the driving pulse of Middle Eastern rhythms to harmonize with ancient instruments. In this musical remembrance, Judaic and Christian scripture offer the listener renewed inspiration.
About the Artist
The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (SAVAE) is a renowned choral and instrumental group dedicated to exploring the origins of ancient music. They have appeared on National Public Radio's Performance Today several times between their numerous U.S. tours. Their previous recordings of Aztec and Nahua music have received rave reviews, including Guadalupe: Virgen de los Indios, featured on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition.
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SAVAE granted me the opportunity to review "Ancient Echoes" before it was released, and I've heard the ensemble in three live concerts of this music since. One thing I still notice is that the synagogal scripture chants as such, however artfully performed, are almost always =detached= from the sense of the words -- especially in the case of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). The medieval Babylonian Jewish wedding songs are notable exceptions to this rule of detachment. So are the three early "classical" works on the recording: the famous Song of Seikilos from ancient Greece, the medieval "Arabian Dance", and the two versions of the Priestly Blessing ("Bircath Cohenim [sic]") taken from Numbers 6:22-27 in the Hebrew Masoretic Text. The melody from the latter was deciphered from the Masoretic musical accentuation by the late Suzanne Haik-Vantoura and was taken from her own first recording, likewise sold on Amazon.com. In performance it is slightly ornamented to reflect the musical trends documented for the late Second Temple period, occuring even among the Levites. (I have waited twenty years to hear such a glorious rendition of Haik-Vantoura's Priestly Blessing; and I understand it's a favorite of the ensemble, the producers and the audiences alike.)
Artistically, I can hardly recommend this CD enough. My only caution is that one should not take the Sufi-inspired "translations" of the Aramaic Beatitudes by one Neil Douglas-Klotz (as found in the liner notes) too seriously. They seem to derive from the "root fallacy" -- that is, the belief (one common to many Westerners and Middle Easterners alike, if perhaps in different ways) that the meaning of a word consists in the sum of its parts. Such thinking leads the interpreter (as one may readily see) to conclusions which are completely the opposite of what the author of the Beatitudes intended to say.
The CD comes with ample liner notes (12 pages) that fully describe the project. Each trac is explained. The project is well researched.
I cannot recommend this CD highly enough.